Nutrition, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Broccolini is a cruciferous vegetable similar to broccoli. Many people love broccolini because it has a more delicate texture than broccoli. Even picky eaters may find it tasty, and it’s easy to prepare.

But what exactly is broccolini, and are there reasons to consider eating it over traditional broccoli?

This article explores the nutritional value of broccolini, as well as provides an overview of broccolini’s health benefits and some tips on cooking this nutritious vegetable.

Broccolini (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis) is a cruciferous vegetable of the Brassicaceae family — just like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.

Some restauranteurs and marketers sometimes call it baby broccoli. This isn’t an accurate description, though, because broccolini is not the same thing as conventional broccoli.

In fact, broccolini is a fairly new vegetable, created only in the 1990s as a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale (kai lan), in an attempt to create a more flavorful Brassica food (1).

SUMMARY

A cross between traditional broccoli and Chinese kale, broccolini is a cruciferous vegetable in the Brassicaceae family.

Broccoli and broccolini are similar. So, if you like one of these, you’ll probably like the other. Both are green plants with a long stem and bunches of florets at the ends.

While broccoli tends to be firmer, with a thicker stalk and more densely packed florets, broccolini has a thinner, more delicate stalk with looser florets that more closely resemble leaves.

This means you can more easily eat broccolini stems than broccoli stems, which are much tougher and could be more difficult to eat and digest raw. Plus, you don’t need to peel broccolini stems before preparing them.

The texture of broccolini is more like that of asparagus than broccoli. Broccolini also has a sweeter, milder flavor than broccoli and cooks faster.

You can find both broccoli and broccolini in the produce section at most grocery stores.

SUMMARY

Broccolini has a milder, sweeter flavor than broccoli and a more delicate texture, with thinner stems and more leaf-like florets at the ends.

Nutritionally, broccolini closely resembles broccoli.

Just 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw broccolini contain (2):

  • Calories: 35
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Protein: 3.5 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Calcium: 4% of the daily value (DV)
  • Iron: 7% of the DV
  • Potassium: 6% of the DV

As you can see, broccolini is very low in calories but relatively high in fiber. As far as vegetables go, it also provides a fair amount of protein.

Broccolini contains an array of micronutrients, including minerals like calcium and iron. It likely also offers several vitamins, though specific amounts aren’t known (2).

SUMMARY

Like broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, broccolini is a good source of fiber. Broccolini also contains protein, potassium, and vitamins A, C, E, and K — as well as small amounts of calcium and iron.

Leafy greens like broccolini host a range of essential micronutrients that may provide additional health benefits. Broccolini and other cruciferous vegetables contain sulfur-rich compounds like sulforaphane — the compound behind many of its purported health benefits.

1. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds

The Brassicaceae family of vegetables is known to be high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, such as carotenoids — the yellow, orange, and red organic pigments in plants — and vitamins C and E (3, 4).

Antioxidants are compounds that may prevent damage from oxidative stress in your body. Excess oxidative stress can lead to diseases, many stemming from chronic inflammation (5).

2. May offer anticancer potential

Eating Brassica vegetables like broccolini provides so many antioxidants that it may have anticancer potential (4).

For example, one review of data from case-control studies concluded that eating a diet high in cruciferous vegetables likely protects against certain cancers (6).

Daily intake of cruciferous vegetables was associated with a lower risk for death by all causes in a 17-year-long study in 88,184 middle-aged people with no history of cancer, heart attack, or stroke (7).

Even more impressive, the sulforaphane in broccolini has antioxidant-like properties that inhibit the activation and growth of cancer cells (8, 9, 10).

Keep in mind that human research is lacking, though, so more studies are needed.

3. May boost heart health

Broccolini may help protect against heart disease.

One study found that eating cruciferous vegetables was protective against the development of plaque blockages in arteries that can prevent proper blood flow to and from your heart, a common cause of heart attacks and strokes. This is also called atherosclerosis (11).

In another study in 1,226 Australian women ages 70 and older with no diagnosed atherosclerosis, a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables was associated with a lower risk of death from blocked arteries (12).

Notably, eating more total vegetables in general, including non-cruciferous varieties, did not appear to offer this same benefit.

The sulforaphane in broccolini has been shown in animal and test-tube studies to help reduce inflammation and prevent the narrowing of arteries (13, 14).

4. Blood sugar control

Eating fiber-rich foods like broccolini may aid blood sugar control.

Your body digests fiber-packed broccolini more slowly, keeping you full for longer. This prevents blood sugar spikes that occur with more quickly digested foods like refined carbs, sugar-sweetened beverages, and candy (15).

Animal studies have found sulforaphane to have a beneficial effect on blood sugar (16, 17).

Additionally, in a 12-week study in 97 adults with type 2 diabetes, taking broccoli sprout extract daily with the equivalent of 150 µmol of sulforaphane was effective at lowering fasting blood sugar levels and improving HgA1c, a marker of long-term blood sugar control (18).

SUMMARY

Broccolini is full of sulfur-containing compounds like sulforaphane, which is largely responsible for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. This veggie may also support heart health and blood sugar control.

Because of its softer texture, broccolini does best when cooked — it can taste a little wilted when eaten raw. You can use it any way you would use broccoli.

Broccolini works well mixed in stir-fries, sautéed on the stove, roasted in the oven, or grilled. You can also boil or steam it. It generally takes 10 minutes or fewer to cook.

You can also cut broccolini into long, thin strips and blanch it by placing it in boiling water for 3 minutes, then immediately transferring it to a bowl of ice water. This way, you can store and freeze it later.

However you choose to cook broccolini, you might want to consider seasoning it or serving it with a dip to bump up the flavor.

Unfortunately, some of the beneficial plant compounds in broccolini can be significantly reduced when you cook it. Still, this doesn’t cancel out the health benefits broccolini has to offer (3, 19, 20).

SUMMARY

Broccolini generally tastes best cooked, as it’s softer than broccoli when raw. Try it grilled, roasted, sautéed, steamed, or boiled, and consider serving it with a seasoning or a dip.

Broccolini is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family — a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. It’s a good source of fiber, protein, and minerals like potassium and iron.

It contains compounds like sulforaphane that are responsible for many of its health benefits, especially its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Eating broccolini may also support heart health and blood sugar control.

Compared to broccoli, broccolini tastes sweeter, with a mild flavor and more delicate texture. Still, you can use broccolini in many similar ways and cook it using methods like grilling, sautéing, roasting, steaming, and boiling.

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